Many moving parts go into UX design, and often times that includes rules that challenge the way users think. By following a few fundamental rules, designers can take their UX from mediocre to excellent.

Aesthetic-Usability Effect

This effect was first studied in 1995 by researchers Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura. Their research discovered that when users find UX design appealing to the eye, they are more likely to miss minor usability issues. This translates to the idea that the more aesthetically pleasing a design is, the less likely a user is to notice if there are fault points on the digital product that are not working correctly. However, this is not the case with significant usability issues. 

This research illustrates the importance of taking time to make designs appealing and engaging. Users are more likely to have an enjoyable experience if the designs are aesthetically pleasing. This is a challenge for researchers studying usability due to the missed errors in functionality, but it can be used to a designer’s advantage.

Laptop with notebook and apple in minimalist setting

Law of Common Region

The law of common region describes elements that are perceived as a part of the same group when they are in an area with clearly defined boundaries. These include but are not limited to changes in background color or using a border around elements. This is also known as the Gestalt Law of Grouping. This law perfectly applies to UX/UI design because human brains are programmed to look for patterns. Designers benefit from this by helping users understand the relationship between elements.

By putting elements together, the user can find needed information much more quickly than if spaced randomly. Grouping elements can enhance memorization for the user and create visual hierarchies. These rankings illustrate what users should pay attention to first by highlighting the most important information.

Peak-End Rule

Users tend to judge an experience based on its peak and its end rather than on the average of the experience as a whole. This can be utilized by digital designers to ensure great user experiences. It is imperative to pay close attention to the most intense points of the experience, for example, registering to use an app, as well as the last moment of the experience. Placing effort into the entire design is essential, but putting extra effort into important, memorable aspects of a design, can truly make a difference; try putting intense effort into the most important aspects. This will allow users to be more forgiving of minor inconveniences. 

Further, the peak-end rule can be found on many e-commerce websites. Often, when buying a product online, the final interaction a user engages in is the product that was just purchased. This is done intentionally, so instead of focusing on the amount of money spent, the user is excited to receive the item you purchased.

Person buying item online with laptop on lap and debit card in hand.

Gestalt Principles – Theory of Perception

There are many Gestalt principles in psychology that help describe the how and why behind human perception. One of these theories is that of multi-stability or the idea that when there is ambiguity in a design, the user can only see one version at a time. For example, in a design where it is possible to see two different shapes, the mind switches back and forth between the two shapes rather than seeing them both at once. There is typically one dominant perception, and the longer the person goes without seeing the other version, the less likely they will ever be able to see it.

This idea is helpful for a designer who is working with user perception as well as directing users’ attention. Instead of trying to change someone’s perception all at once, try to get them to see an alternative. Over time, the alternative view will become their dominant perception, and they will no longer be able to visualize the thing they first saw.

Isolation Effect

The Von Restoroff Theory or isolation effect is the idea that people are more likely to remember an outlier when presented with a group of similar things. In a list of similar items, memory is enhanced for anything that stands out as being different. This theory was discovered by the pediatrician and psychiatrist Hedwig Von Restoroff.

Design uses the isolation effect in a variety of ways. By changing the colors, shapes, sizes, spaces, and more, the user is more likely to remember specific elements. The most important things can be highlighted by being different from the objects around them.

Field of yellow tulips, one red tulip in middle of frame.

Following the Rules

While there are many more rules to creating fantastic UX design, these are some ideas to begin the journey. By enhancing certain objects and focusing on the end user, a designer can direct the user to exactly where they want to go.